Holiday Baking: Spritz Cookies With A Lemon-Lime Twist

I’m gearing up for my holiday baking and thinking citrus things. I remembered I was going to try these with some citrus zest next time.

From Christmas 2014:

Spritz Cookies

I love spritz butter cookies. They’re tiny little, melt-in-your-mouth bites that go great with a cup of coffee. I didn’t realize how easy they were to make. It helped that a friend of a friend loaned me her all metal, ratchet handled press. These are not easy to come by any more, at least not when I went looking. Most of the new ones are partially plastic and received tepid reviews, especially for durability and ease of use.

Speaking of reviews, I was reading the reviews when JLB posted her favorite recipe along with her review at Amazon. That ended up being the recipe I decided to use and it worked beautifully.

Although my Christmas trees kind of look like trilobites, they taste great.

If I make these again, I might divide the dough into thirds and make one plain and then make one with lime zest and another with lemon zest and dust with citrus powdered sugar.

Spritz Raw

Here is JLB’s perfect recipe (with my thanks!):

Spritz Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened/room temp – set on counter for about 15 minutes
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 egg yolks, room temp
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add egg yolks and vanilla mixing well. In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt with a wire whisk.

Add dry ingredients slowly to the butter and sugar and mix until the dough is in small to medium sized clumps. Now mix with your hands to form dough into a ball. (Should have a consistency similar to Play Dough, but not dry.) If your dough is sticky, add flour; a tablespoon at a time. If it seems dry, add softened butter; a tablespoon at a time. (TaMara’s Note: I gently kneaded the dough for about a minute to get the right consistency)

Load dough into press. Top with colored sugars or other sprinkles. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets for 8 – 10 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes on cookie sheets before removing and placing on cooling racks.
Makes about 5 – 6 dozen.

Me again. A few tips on using the cookie press. Put your baking sheets in the freezer, this makes the cookie dough stick when you press them on the sheets. Like putting your tongue on a frozen light pole. 🙂 I put them out on the patio to cool in between batches before pressing more cookies.

Fill the cookie press 3/4 full, that seems to be the easiest to handle.

I pulled mine from the oven while they were still light colored. One batch got a little golden. It definitely changes the flavor and I preferred the light colored ones, but experiment, you might the golden ones better.

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Sure hope my friend still has that cookie press I can borrow. Nothing beats the spring loaded metal ones.

festive-holiday-wreaths

 

 

Quick Tip: Freezing Fresh from the Garden

 

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It’s the time of year again when things begin to ripen faster than you can eat them, but there are still not enough to think about canning or cooking down and freezing. So what to do?

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I had a bunch of cilantro and two tomatoes which were rushing to ruin and decided I needed to do something so I didn’t end up composting them. You can do this with any leafy herb, such as the basil, parsley, cilantro and veggies such as tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini.

I added the tomatoes and cilantro into my blender, covered with water and blended together well. I froze them in 8 oz portions, as that is the amount I would use in soup or sauce. Ice cube trays are an option, too, but that size is better for when you’re freezing intense herbs, like basil, by itself, where you would only use a tablespoon or so in a recipe.

I also zest all my oranges, lemons and limes and freeze them in a thin and flat layer in ziplock bags. Then I break off whatever amount called for in a recipe.

Herbs can also be packed in oil (click here) as JeffreyW did with his basil pictured above and tomatoes can be flash frozen whole, as JeffreyW did with the batch  pictured at the top and detailed here, green and red peppers can be seeded and cut up into large pieces and frozen in the same manner.

There are many more ways to preserve fresh from the garden produce and I’ll try and remember to document as I go along this summer. Until then….

cropped-habenaros.jpg

 

Friday Recipe Exchange: Braised Italian Chicken

Braised Chicken

I’m travelling this weekend, but didn’t want to leave you without a recipe exchange two weeks in a row. This is a repeat from several years ago (have we really been doing it that long?). My life is pulling me in twelve different directions right now and only a few do I have control over. That probably means between now and the big holidays, we’ll have more repeats. Once I move into my new house, I’ll be back into the cooking groove…and in a better kitchen that doesn’t make feel all stabby and want to throw things.

I have a couple of recipes that I made recently that I’ll try and put together for next week. But no promises, if next week unfolds anything like this week.

No Bixby update this week, but a few pictures of how much he’s grown, here. There is no hiding his Great Dane lineage now. BTW, in case you didn’t know it, Mrs. J works at the local shelter and JeffreyW always has lots of photos of the residents. This is a particularly cute bunch.

On to the recipes:

Chicken is our default theme tonight.

First up, Quick and Easy Barbecue Chicken, recipe here.

Grilled Lime Chicken, and additional marinade ideas, here.

JefferyW is fond of Chicken Marsala, photos and recipe here.

I’ll be out trick or treating with eight year olds tonight. What are you scaring up for the weekend? Cooking up anything good in your cauldron?

Tonight’s featured recipe:

Braised Italian Chicken

  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs, skin on
  • Olive oil
  • Flour
  • Dried: basil, oregano, rosemary, cayenne pepper, pepper, salt, thyme

Sauce:

  • 6-8 green onions, chopped
  • 1 small zucchini cubed
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 4-6 button mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic or equivalent
  • 1/2 cup good red wine
  • 6 oz can of tomato paste
  • 14 oz can of diced tomatoes or equivalent (I use unsalted)
  • 2-15oz cans of tomato sauce (again, I use unsalted)
  • 2 tsp dried basil (or fresh equivalent)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (opt)
  • Pinch of rosemary
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 10-16 oz of favorite pasta (I like angel hair with this dish)

Bowl, Saucepan, Skillet, Baking dish or Dutch oven

In a bowl, mix together about 2 cups of flour and a good amount of the spices. Wash and dry thighs. Dredge in flour and fry in large skillet in about 1/2 cup of olive oil (I start with skin side down and do not touch it until it moves easily when I nudge it with a fork, then I flip it). When browned on both sides, remove to a plate with paper towels to drain a bit. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat 1 tbsp of oil and add diced vegetables, cook until the onions are translucent. Add garlic and cook for another minute, then add wine, stirring to deglaze the pan. Add remaining ingredients, stirring to mix well. Let simmer, covered, on the stovetop while chicken browns.

In baking dish, add enough sauce to come 1/2 way up the side of the baking dish. Nestle chicken in the baking dish, skin side up. Now here is the important part, ladle additional sauce AROUND the chicken as needed, but DO NOT cover the top. Leave enough room for the browned top of the chicken to remain above the sauce. This lets it braise and the skin still stay crispy. Bake, UNCOVERED, for 1 hour and 30 minutes. At the 15 minute mark, check to make sure the sauce is barely bubbling, if it is boiling, reduce heat to 300 degrees. Chicken is done when it gives easily, but not falling off the bone.

Leave remaining sauce on the stove to simmer on low while the chicken cooks, you’ll probably want extra for the pasta. Prepare pasta just before chicken is done.  Serve with salad or green beans and a nice deep red wine.

Prep time is a lot on this meal, so I suggest it for weekends or special guests. I also doubled the sauce and froze 1/2 for another meal.

Tonight we also get a glossary:  What is braising?  What is deglazing?

That’s if for this week. Have a safe Halloween. Boo! – TaMara

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

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Tonight is a bit hodgepodge. While I was away, faithful contributor, Joshua D (Yutsano) sent me two tasty recipes to share. I was grateful, because lately I feel like I’m walking on ice and cannot get my feet under me long enough to cook, much less blog about cooking. I’m sitting on a folder full of great vacation pictures and some fun food stories that I can’t seem to find the time to blog about. I struggled with tonight’s featured recipe, finally settling on lamb, but not sure where I wanted to go from there and then I remembered that JeffreyW has been working for quite a while on perfecting his gyros.

And there it was, I knew what I’d feature tonight. What’s on your menu this weekend? Anything new and fun cooking in your kitchen? Be kind and share your inspiration, so I can find mine.

Moving on to tonight’s recipes, starting with Joshua D and Cilantro Lime Hummus, recipe here.

From Ruemara, thoughtfully shared by Joshua D, Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese Soup, recipe here.

And if making a gyro loaf seems a bit too labor intensive, this Spicy Lamb Burger (click here) would work as well with pita and Tzatziki sauce.

Now the featured recipe, inspired by JeffreyW (pictured above):

Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1 tbsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp dried marjoram
  • 1 tbsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Food processor, loaf pan, baking dish

Ok, these are the general directions, but JeffreyW has been playing with perfecting the preparation, so click here and here for lots of step-by-step photos and his tweaks to make the perfect loaf.

In a large bowl, combine ingredients until well mixed and refrigerate 1 hour or overnight. Remove to food processor and process until a fine paste. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F

Place meat mixture into a loaf pan, pressing down on all sides. Place the loaf pan in the baking dish and add water to the baking dish to create a water bath. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the mixture reaches 165 to 170 degrees F. Remove and rest covered with foil for 30 minutes. Slice and serve

Serve with:

  • Tzatziki Sauce (recipe below)
  • 4 to 6 pieces soft pita (not pocket pita)
  • Chopped fresh tomato
  • Finely sliced onion
  • Cubed peeled seeded cucumber
  • Mint sprigs

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 16 ounces plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
  • salt to taste
  • 2 to 3 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 5 to 6 mint leaves, finely minced

Can I just say, thank goodness for Men Who Cook here at What’s 4 Dinner Solutions, I don’t know what I’d do without you  – TaMara

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Fish Tacos

DSC_6746 [1600x1060]I should probably back up a little.  I have been wondering what to do with my habaneros, drying and grinding works but I’ve got enough to last a good while.  I went in search of hot sauce recipes.  I saw plenty but this one had a nice picture.  I stuck fairly close to it and used peaches for the optional fruit because we had a few and I wanted to make it right now! It turned out pretty well:DSC_6725 [1600x1060]You can understand why I needed something to use it on!  I am sure I’ve seen recipes calling for a nice fruity sauce on fish so I set my sights on tacos.  There are plenty of recipes out there and tons of pictures so I started making a shopping list.  Green onions, red onions, red cabbage, white cabbage, mangoes, more garlic, tortillas, and etc etc.  Too late to use the mangoes in the hot sauce but they are prime ingredients for a nice salsa for a fish taco.  I made one sans cilantro, using the chopped mint from the patio, where an escaped mint planting is proving itself to be tougher than we are. DSC_6756 [1600x1060]I cut the habanero sauce with sour cream, shown here, but the sauce wasn’t that hot so it really wasn’t a problem.  Tasted pretty good on nachos, but the straight habanero sauce was great on them as well, just a little lip burn.  The green chunks in the little bowl on the left are from an experiment I ran with fresh tomatillos, using them in a sour cream based chipotle lime mixture with garlic.  It worked well, I think:DSC_6751 [1600x1060]Here it is, with a drizzle of the habanero hot sauce along with thinly sliced red cabbage.DSC_6750 [1600x1060]Here’s another corn tortilla based taco.  This one has a lime garlic sour cream topping along with the peachy hot sauce.  I used cod fillets for these, marinated for a couple hours and then quickly grilled.  I used this recipe with only minor changes for the marinade and method, and it was the inspiration for the garlic lime sour cream.  I used chipotle powder rather than the adobo sauce.DSC_6748 [1600x1060]A closer look at the mango salsa on this one in a flour tortilla.  It also has a bit of the garlic lime sour cream because I just could not stop myself from adding to it but I suspect it would have been a tad better with just the salsa and the hot sauce.  The flavor of the mango salsa would have been better showcased.  The mango salsa was very good, I finished it off with nacho chips for scoops.

Guacamole Salad

Photo credit: Cook's Country website

Photo credit: Cook’s Country website

I thought this might be fun on Cinco de Mayo and I promised someone a vegetarian treat today.

The original recipe comes from Cooks Country and normally I’d just link to it, but they’re behind a paywall and I never know if you can access the information. So I’m reproducing it here.

From Cook’s Country:

Guacamole Salad

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS

Tasters liked the consistently sweet taste of grape tomatoes compared with other varieties. Tasters also liked the flavor of minced garlic present in many guacamole salad recipes, but thought raw onions were just too harsh, so we used scallions instead. Steeping the garlic and scallions in lime juice for a few minutes before combining them with the avocados mellowed their flavor.

We wanted plenty of peppers for crunch and bulk, but a large quantity of jalapeños made the salad too hot to eat. Milder poblanos, with just a hint of heat, were a better choice.

Serves 4 to 6

If you can’t find poblano peppers, substitute an equal number of Anaheim chiles, or a large green bell pepper mixed with up to 2 tablespoons of minced jalopeño chile.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 scallions, sliced thin
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated lime zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 poblano chiles, seeded and sliced into 2-inch matchsticks
  • 2 ripe avocados, pitted, skinned, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (see related Dicing Avocado tip)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

INSTRUCTIONS

1. SALT TOMATOES Toss tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Transfer to paper towel-lined baking sheet and let drain 15 minutes.

2. MAKE DRESSING Combine scallions, garlic, lime zest, lime juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper in large bowl. Let sit 5 minutes, then slowly whisk in oil.

3. TOSS SALAD Add chiles, avocados, cilantro, and drained tomatoes to bowl with dressing and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

POBLANOS, THE RELLENO CHILES

Our recipe for Guacamole Salad calls for poblano chiles, a tapered, deep-green, medium-sized Mexican chile. They taste slightly bitter, similar to green bell peppers but with a spicier finish. Sold both fresh and dried (the dried are called anchos), they are used in many Mexican dishes, most famously in the United States in deep-fried, cheese-stuffed chiles rellenos. If you can’t find poblanos, substitute one medium green bell pepper and 1 to 2 tablespoons of minced jalapeño (about ½ chile) per poblano.

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Road Trip!

This will have to be quick today. It’s been crazy here and I’m once again on a deadline. Some day I’ll be able to actually cook  more than stir-fry and salads again. But let’s have some fun tonight. I thought in honor of our friends at Balloon-Juice’s “LOUDMOUTHS ACROSS AMERICA TOUR 2012” it might be fun to put together some road food for their trip.

JeffreyW thinks sandwiches are the perfect trip food:

JeffreyW Sandwich

And he has a treasure trove of  mouth-watering sandwich ideas, right here

I like the idea of a flavorful sandwich, I mean what’s to argue with there? For my car trips, I often pick up a bag of Vic’s popcorn and some mixed nuts. Then I always make a batch of something sweet to take along, too.  Last couple of trips it’s been Orange Cookies (recipe below). What do think our intrepid explorers should take with them to North Carolina? Anyone else going to be there? Who else thinks this trip is going to be epic? Can’t wait for the videos…

Orange Cookies

  • ÂĽ cup milk
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp orange zest
  • ÂĽ cup orange juice
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 Âľ cups flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • dash salt
  • ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts or almonds

bowl & baking sheet

Add lemon juice to milk and let set for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cream butter & sugar, add egg, orange peel, orange juice, vanilla, & milk. Mix well. Sift together dry ingredients, then add to butter mixture. Add nuts. Refrigerate 15 minutes or more (keep refrigerated between batches, also).

Drop by teaspoons full to baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes 3 dozen

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Grilled Chicken

Photo by JeffreyW

I had a request to do some grilling and picnic recipes for the next few weeks (thanks Yutsano). We’ll traverse the table: meats, vegetables, side dishes and desserts. By July 4th we should be covered.

Tonight we’ll start with grilling chicken. I have a stockpile of marinade and grilling recipes for chicken breasts. I may be in the minority, but when it comes to many chicken dishes, including bbq and fried chicken, I prefer thighs. They have more flavor and are moister. The introduction of boneless thighs was like a culinary miracle as far as I was concerned.

When I am using marinades, though, I actually prefer boneless breasts. Similar to pork loin, they take on whatever flavors are introduced and cook up quickly. When using a marinade, I think their blandness proves more of an asset than a deficit; they are kind of like a blank canvas for introducing flavors.

And for busy weeknights, nothing is quicker and easier than pulling marinated chicken breasts out of the refrigerator, doing a quick stir-fry or grilling them and serving with rice and a salad. I have three recipes to get us started:

Cranberry Grilled Chicken (recipe here) is one of my favorites and anyone who has read this blog, knows I LOVE cranberries.

And Sunrise Chicken (recipe here) is a great citrus based marinade.

Tonight’s feature recipe is a marinade that is meant for grilling. Grilling gives the marinated breasts a nice crust. It can also be used on pork loin or boneless pork chops, though I prefer apple cider or cranberry juice to the grape juice in that case.

So what do you look forward to the most at a picnic? What’s your favorite thing to grill?

Fruit Juice Marinated Chicken Breasts

  • 4 chicken boneless breasts
  • ½ cup grape or cranberry juice
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup wine
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic

zip lock bag or sealed container

Add all ingredients into zip lock bag and thoroughly coat & let marinate overnight. Grill 15 minutes each side, 165 degrees internal temp.

When grilling, to avoid drying chicken out, sear on each side (about 5 minutes each side), cook 5 additional minutes for each side, baste with marinade if desired, then move away from high heat for rest of the cooking time. The thickness of the chicken breasts makes a difference here, so adjust accordingly.

You’ re on your own tonight. I’ve been asked to film a drumming on Sunday and tonight is going to be a trial run. Should be fun.